Judge Reschedules Sentencing After Expressing Concern Over Plea

A burglary defendant’s sentencing was postponed to Dec. 30 after a DC Superior Court judge expressed concern about the defendant’s understanding of the plea deal he previously accepted. 

In February, 41 year-old Thomas Powell pleaded guilty to attempted second-degree burglary for stealing a currency dispenser from a Subway on the 20th block of M Street, SE on Dec. 30, 2019. The prosecution’s deal allowed him to plead down from his original charge of second-degree burglary.

Since then, Powell has been on standby, waiting for the judge assigned to his case to approve the plea. 

During the Dec. 2 hearing, Powell appeared to demonstrate a lack of full understanding of what the plea deal means for his case and the sentence he would receive. 

“Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?” Judge Julie Becker asked him. 

“Do you want me to be honest, ma’am,” replied Powell, “because I’m not sure.”

The prosecution said that if the defense is no longer going forward with the plea deal, it will be scrapped and the defendant would be indicted on additional charges.

The plea deal is also contingent upon the parties agreeing that Powell will be sentenced to a total of three years and eight months and nothing less. 

“The court’s hands are certainly not tied in giving a fair sentence, given all the circumstances,” argued defense attorney Randy McDonald. 

Judge Becker told McDonald that it was impossible for his client to receive a lesser sentence due to the nature of the agreed upon plea deal. 

Judge Becker decided to continue the sentencing to allow Powell to talk more with his attorney. The defendant will have to remain at DC Jail, where he has been held since the day of the offense.

“If I could beg you to please proceed today, please, your honor, I would be so grateful,” said Powell. “I’ve been through so much in the jail.”

“I can only accept your guilty plea if you truly believe that you are guilty and I am not convinced,” said Judge Becker. “We will not be doing this today, and I will not change my mind about that.”

Sierra Robbins wrote this article.